Colorado and Clemson, two teams that rode strong defensive efforts in semifinal victories, will play in Tuesday night’s championship game of the MGM Resorts Main Event tournament at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
No. 21 Colorado (4-0) forced 19 turnovers and held Wyoming to just 31.9 percent shooting in its 56-41 victory over the Cowboys, while Clemson (5-1) forced six turnovers over a seven-minute span while closing out regulation on a 15-0 run to pull out a 62-60 overtime win over TCU.
Tevin Mack scored 22 points, with 5-for-10 shooting on 3-pointers, and grabbed nine rebounds. Aamir Simms sparked the second-half comeback for the Tigers by scoring all 13 of his points after halftime to go along with 12 rebounds. It marked the largest comeback win (15 points) since 2011 for Clemson, which has won five in a row since a 67-60 season-opening loss to Virginia Tech.
“That was a remarkable win,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of our guys for battling the way they did.”
The Tigers held TCU to just 37.9 percent shooting while also forcing 21 turnovers.
“I thought our defense was good all game,” Brownell said. “I was really proud of how our players defended. I told them throughout the game to just keep defending. This is one of those wins where you keep grinding and hanging in there and hope for something good to happen.”
Defense was also the key to Colorado’s victory over Wyoming. The Buffaloes overcame eight turnovers and 6-for-26 shooting, including 1-of-9 from 3-point range, during an ugly 15-15 first half to outscore the Cowboys 41-26 after intermission.
“There’s going to be some nights when the ball’s not going in,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle told cubuffs.com. “That’s why defense and rebounding travels. You can always be good and solid on that end of the floor and you have to do that to stay in games.
“We could have been down 30-15 at halftime if we didn’t guard. That’s a sign of maturity. The frustrations — we didn’t fix them in the first 20 minutes — but they didn’t affect us on the other end of the court. That’s a sign of progress.”
Junior swingman D’Shawn Schwartz scored seven of his team-high 12 points during a 13-0 run to start the second half, and Wyoming never got closer than four points the rest of the way. Junior swingman Tyler Bey finished with 11 points, a career-high 19 rebounds and six assists, while sophomore forward Evan Battey added nine points and 13 rebounds for the Buffs.
Bey, a Las Vegas native who starred at nearby Las Vegas High School as a junior before playing his senior year at Middlebrooks Academy in Los Angeles, had his third double-double of the season and 22nd of his career. His 19 rebounds were the most by a Colorado player since Andre Roberson had 20 against Stanford in 2013, but Boyle seemed more impressed with his career-high six assists.
“That’s where I though Tyler really took a step forward today, was passing the ball,” Boyle said. “They were doubling us in the post. We expected that, we knew that’s what they do, and our guys handled that.”
Boyle said his team will have to play much better for 40 minutes to win the title game.
“We know the price of poker goes up Tuesday night,” Boyle said. “We’re competing for a championship and that’s what you want to do.”
–Field Level Media